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Post Date:  7/17/2015
Last Updated:  7/17/2015

Summary
Cross References
- IR-2015-97, July 15, 2015

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson released her mid-year report to Congress that identifies the priority issues the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) will address during the upcoming fiscal year, including the IRS’ long-term strategic planning, tax-related identity theft and administration of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), and presents highlights of the recently concluded filing season.

Overview of the Filing Season
The report says the IRS ran a generally successful filing season under difficult circumstances. "With funding down about 17% on an inflation-adjusted basis since FY 2010, and with the IRS having had to implement large portions of the ACA and the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) this year without any supplemental funding, sharp declines in taxpayer service were inevitable," Olson wrote. Likening the 2015 filing season to "A Tale of Two Cities," however, the report says: "For the majority of taxpayers who filed their returns and did not require IRS assistance, the filing season was generally successful. For the segment of taxpayers who required help from the IRS, the filing season was by far the worst in memory."

The report notes the following: During the filing season, the IRS processed 126.1 million individual tax returns (compared with 125.6 million last year) and issued 91.8 million refunds (compared with 94.8 million last year). The average refund amount was $2,711 (compared with $2,686 last year).
- The IRS answered only 37% of taxpayer calls routed to customer service representatives overall, and the hold time for taxpayers who got through averaged 23 minutes. This level of service represents a sharp drop-off from the 2014 filing season, when the IRS answered 71% of its calls and hold times averaged about 14 minutes.
- The IRS answered only 39% of calls from taxpayers seeking assistance from TAS on the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) Toll-Free hotline, and hold times averaged 19 minutes. TAS serves as the IRS’ "safety net" for taxpayers who are experiencing a financial or systemic hardship as a result of IRS action or inaction.
- The IRS answered only 17% of calls from taxpayers who called after being notified that their tax returns had been blocked by the Taxpayer Protection Program (TPP) on suspicion of identity theft, and the hold times averaged about 28 minutes. In three consecutive weeks during the filing season, the IRS answered fewer than 10% of these calls.
- The IRS answered only 45% of calls from practitioners who called the IRS on the Practitioner Priority Service line, and hold times averaged 45 minutes.

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